Nutrition in chia seeds
Chia seeds may provide several benefits as part of a healthy diet. There is no RDA for chia seeds. Still, they can be safely eaten in amounts of 50 grams daily, which is about five tablespoons.
The chia plant is a member of the mint family. It's traditionally grown in South and Central America because it grows in a dry environment. Long before being featured in the popular toy, 'Chia Pets,' chia seeds were used in cooking and medicine. Today, chia seeds are touted as a superfood and mostly used for their nutritional benefits.
Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. They contain all nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are amino acids that your body can't produce, so they have to come from your diet.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain:
- Calories: 140
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fiber: 11 grams
- Unsaturated fat: 7 grams
- Calcium: 18 percent of recommended daily allowance (RDA)
- Trace amounts of zinc
- Trace amounts of copper
Benefits of eating chia seeds
Chia seeds may provide several benefits as part of a healthy diet, including the following.
ALA fatty acid
ALA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that makes up 60 percent of the oil in chia seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, regulating heart rhythms, preventing blood clots, and decreasing inflammation.
The Nurses’ Health Study found a 40 percent reduced risk of sudden cardiac death in women who ate the highest amounts of ALA. Another study of 5000 men and women over age 65 found that eating more ALA was associated with a 50 percent reduced risk of fatal ischemic heart disease.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body can't digest. There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble — and both are beneficial. The fiber in chia seeds is mainly soluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can help lower your cholesterol and glucose levels.
Chia seeds are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help reduce damage to your cells caused by oxidation. Antioxidants may reduce the risk of many different diseases, including heart disease and some cancers.
According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.”
Buying and storing chia seeds
Chia seeds are available in black and white varieties. There is no nutritional difference between the two, so choose whichever you prefer.
Chia seeds don't need to be ground. They can be absorbed and digested whole. Chia seeds can be stored in a cool, dry spot for 4 to 5 years without refrigeration.
Chia seeds as part of a healthy diet
There is no RDA for chia seeds. Still, they can be safely eaten in amounts of 50 grams daily, which is about five tablespoons. Two tablespoons provide all of the nutritional benefits listed above.
Soaked chia seeds
Soaked chia seeds have a gel-like texture. You can soak them in water for 10 minutes and store them in the refrigerator. This mixture can be added to moist foods like:
- Fruit salad
- Cereal with milk
- Tomato sauce
You can also replace up to 25 percent of the oil or eggs in baked goods with soaked chia seeds without affecting the texture of the recipe.
Mix one-fourth cup of chia seeds with one cup of liquid. You can use almond or soy milk or fruit juice. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Top with nuts, cinnamon, or fresh fruit.
Chia sprouts make great microgreens in salads or toppings. Place chia seeds in a single layer on an unglazed clay dish or terra cotta saucer. Spray the seeds with water and cover with plastic wrap. Put them in a sunny spot and spray with water in the morning and evening until the seeds sprout, in about 3 to 7 days.
Chia seed topping
Because chia seeds don't have much flavor on their own, you can add them to almost any food to boost the nutrition profile. Keep chia seeds handy to sprinkle into breakfast cereal, soups, stews, or salads. You can also add them into salad dressing, sauces, marinades, or batter for baked goods.
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Risks of using chia seeds
There’s one report of a man who ate dry chia seeds and then drank a glass of water. The chia seeds swelled, causing a blockage in his esophagus.
If you have trouble swallowing, you should eat chia seeds carefully. Chia seeds swell when mixed with water, so don't eat them dry.
It's best to eat chia seeds in moist foods — where they have already expanded.